A company will only be as successful as the vitality of their employees.

In a study conducted by researchers at BYU, employees with unhealthy diets were 66 percent more likely to report having a loss in productivity. In that same study, those who had difficulty exercising were 96 percent more likely to report having a loss in productivity.

Besides improved productivity, making wellness more of a priority in your company helps with establishing an unmistakable company culture where you keep and attract the best talent, decrease work-related stress by 12 percent (according to this study by The Economist Intelligence Unit), increase job satisfaction, improve happiness, and improve your bottom line (an ROI of $6.00 according to this study).

This all sounds wonderful, especially if you're Google where throwing large chunks of money into wellness programs is easy-peasy.

But, small businesses aren't operating with monopoly money.

With that said, the interest in wellness for small businesses is there. In fact, a study by The National Small Business Association and Humana indicated that 93 percent of small business owners think that employee well-being is critical to their companies bottom line. Unfortunately, that same study indicated that only 22 percent of small businesses actually have a wellness program.

The discrepancy in numbers isn't due to lack of desire, it's due to a knowledge gap and the perceived notion that all wellness programs come with a huge expense bill.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Here is a five-step process to start a wellness program that is effective, doesn't drain the budget, and ultimately helps your companies bottom line.

1. Integrate wellness into your companies DNA

A wellness program isn't a PSA to inform your employees that smoking is harmful and they should exercise. A wellness program starts by making a commitment to have wellness factor into every act and decision the company makes.

This commitment starts with the backing of the leaders of the company and trickles down into making the company environment healthier.

Look at your vending machine and cafeteria options. Another option is to swap the office snack bowl with healthier options such as fruits and nuts.

2. Determine what your employees want

Before a company throws a product out into the world, they perform market research. Before I create a workout and nutritional program for clients and groups, I perform my initial research by gathering information from the client.

This same logic applies to creating your wellness program. No need to throw the entire kitchen sink of options into the program.

Simply have human resources create a simple questionnaire. What do your employees need? What are they struggling with? What are some topics in health and fitness that they want to learn more about?

Doing this helps you understand their current mindset, obstacles, beliefs, and provides an excellent foundation and direction of where to start.

3. Slowly implement your plan

Don't worry about trying to implement the perfect program initially. There isn't a right or wrong way to go about this. As long as you did the previous step and picked a few of the more popular options, you're on the right track.

While implementing your plan, it's important to think about how you'll motivate and communicate this information to your employees. Providing discounts to a nearby gym for fitness memberships is a decent start. But, your program will be more effective and actually make an impact when you combine education, accountability, and community with physical activity.

A couple of options to get you started is to look into bringing in health and fitness experts who can give workshops on nutrition, exercising, sleep, and other specific topics that your employees want to learn about. You can also hire someone to consult your company and have a private online Facebook group for accountability and community.

4. Keep it practical and easy

The wellness program means very little if the difficulty in participating isn't easy and straightforward. You can't make everyone participate, but you can make sure the program is accessible. Think about creating different levels to fit the beginner while keeping the savvy fitness enthusiast engaged.

5. Determine your definition of success

It's tempting to only think of metrics such as the number of sick days decreasing while monitoring if productivity is improving. But go beyond those standard metrics to determine success.

Track metrics such as the participation rates of the various activities and challenges. Conduct anonymous surveys to measure employee satisfaction in the company and wellness initiatives. Lastly, you could add meaning to your program by donating to a charity for every "such & such" amount of steps the company takes as a whole.

Starting a wellness program for your small business doesn't need be confusing nor filled with overwhelming details and steps, just start small and keep optimizing as you go along.

Published on: Mar 16, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.